Where can I get free broadband?

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The last time I bought broadband, I got a package with free broadband - I just had to pay line rental. Do any providers still do this? Is there any way to get the internet for free? Thanks in advance.

Mike, London

Let's get the inconvenient truth out of the way: no internet provider in the UK offers free broadband. If you want to get online at home, you'll have to pay for it. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

BUT… here's some good news: it is possible to avoid paying a lot. Plus, for occasional use, there are free public Wi-Fi hotspots - though I'd strongly advise against relying on these to get regular internet access. Read on, and I'll explain all that in more detail, and tell you how to get home broadband for the lowest possible price.

And you know what? I won't charge a thing.

Which providers offer free broadband?

Unfortunately, no provider gives away home broadband for free. It is possible to find cheap providers that provide simple broadband packages at a low price, and some offer free installation and free gifts. But you'll have to resign yourself to the fact that cash must be splashed.

There is a chance that a special offer may change that - Sky has given broadband away with TV before, for example (but even then you had to pay for its expensive television service). But let me put this as plainly as possible: don't wait for a free broadband deal to appear - you could be waiting a long time, perhaps even forever. If you need more affordable internet access, start looking for a low cost deal instead.

How do I find a low cost broadband deal?

The easiest way to find a cheap deal is to compare them. And - shameless plug - you can do that right here on broadbandchoices. Simply use our postcode checker to see all the deals in your area. Sort by either total price or monthly cost depending on your preferences, and the cheapest deals will display clearly at the top of the results grid.

Here's some other advice that may prove useful:

  • Identify the cheaper providers - Some suppliers specialise in affordable broadband. You don't typically get a lot of bells and whistles with these packages, but you do get unlimited downloads at a limited price. These companies include Post Office, TalkTalk, Plusnet, First Utility and Now Broadband. That said…
  • Watch out for special offers - a good special offer can change the game dramatically. Even a pricier company like Sky, Virgin Media or BT can become affordable with the right deal, so make sure you compare all the available options before committing to a package.
  • Check the actual cost - Make sure you factor in extra charges like setup or delivery fees. We make these very clear on our grid and list the first year cost for extra clarity, but keep your eyes open if you go through a provider's site.
  • Cut out things you don't need - when you click through to a deal, you may be able to add and remove services. Think about what you actually need - if, for example, you don't use the phone much, dropping weekend and evening calls could save you a bit extra.

I've written loads more about finding broadband packages (it's sorta what this site does after all). These other pages may prove useful in your search:

Hang on - I got free broadband in the past? Why not now?

Long long ago in the before-times (well, before October 2016), broadband providers did advertise free broadband. While technically correct, it was always smoke and mirrors because you'd still have to pay line rental. What's more, sometimes you'd have to start paying for broadband mid or post-contract. Honestly, it was all very confusing unless you used a comparison site.

Eventually, the ASA agreed and changed the way advertising works. Now, providers have to show the all-in pricing, and make any extra costs, such as installation explicit. It's a much, much better system.

And that, in a nutshell, is why you don't see 'free broadband' anymore.

So is there any way to get online for free?

If you're determined to get online for nothing, I can think of one possible option: public Wi-Fi hotspots. These tend to appear around shops, cafes and restaurants and often - but not always - give you free access to the internet once you've registered. You may also get free access included with some mobile phone plans, such as free BT Wi-Fi with some EE plans.

You should absolutely not rely on these as your primary form of internet access, however. They're less secure than a properly set-up home network - your activity may be tracked, and they're more susceptible to snooping. They're also likely slower due to the number of people using them. In other words, they're not a realistic alternative to home broadband.

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